Tokyo 2020: IOC gives four-week deadline to consider postponement
The IOC's executive board met on Sunday amid mounting pressure from athletes and national Olympic committees with a definitive decision to be taken 'within four weeks'.
The IOC is facing constant mounting opposition to the current schedule for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games which are due to commence on 24 July with athletes, teams and federations calling for a delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The IOC are set to be considering three possible scenarios: moving the games back to the autumn, delaying the event to the summer of 2021 or even pushing the event back to 2022.
The Japanese government will have a major say in the final outcome having already invested over 35,000 million euros.
"We are not putting the cancellation of the Games on the agenda," IOC chief Thomas Bach said in an interview with the New York Times on 20 March, with the German consistently claiming in public that cancelling Tokyo 2020 was not on the agenda.
Following the meeting on Sunday (22 March) IOC chief Bach published an open letter to all Olympic athletes.
Thomas Bach letter (chosen excerpts)
Dear Fellow Athletes,
In this unprecedented crisis we are all united.
Like you, we are very much concerned about what the COVID-19 pandemic is doing to people’s lives. Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I would like to assure you that we will adhere to this in all our decisions concerning the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The road to Tokyo is very different for each of you, coming from 206 NOCs. Many of you cannot prepare and train in the way you are used to, or even not at all because of the anti-COVID-19 measures in your country. Many of you are in training and are looking forward to making your Olympic dream come true. Many of you are already qualified for the Games; a significant number are not.
What we all share, however, is tremendous uncertainty. This uncertainty rocks our nerves and raises or strengthens doubts about a positive future; it destroys hope. Some even have to fear for their very existence. This uncertainty stems from the fact that, at this moment, nobody can really make fully reliable statements about the duration of this fight against the virus. This is true for sport, science, the media, politics, and all of society. Therefore also the IOC can unfortunately not answer all your questions. This is why we are relying on the advice of a Task Force including the World Health Organization (WHO).
As successful athletes, you know that we should never give up, even if the chance to succeed appears to be very small. Our commitment to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is based on this experience. It is our experience as athletes that you must always be ready to adapt to new situations. For this reason we have, as indicated before, been thinking in different scenarios and are adapting them almost day by day.
On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic flame. This could strengthen our confidence in our Japanese hosts that we could, with certain safety restrictions, organise Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting our principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved. On the other hand, we have seen a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of the virus in different countries on different continents. This is why we have to undertake the next step in our scenarios.
I think I can feel with those among you who consider the situation to be unsatisfactory. Even though, in very different circumstances and for very different reasons, I had an experience of uncertainty as an athlete in the lead-up to the Olympic Games Moscow 1980. We were uncertain whether the Games would take place and whether we would be allowed to participate. Quite frankly, I would have preferred it if the decision-makers then would have taken more time to decide on a more sound basis of information.
Our basis of information today is that a final decision about the date of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 now would still be premature.
So, like you, we are in a dilemma: Cancellation of the Olympic Games would destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees, from the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, most likely for the Paralympic athletes, and for all the people who are supporting you as coaches, doctors, officials, training partners, friends and family. Cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody. Therefore it is not on our agenda.
A decision about a postponement today could not determine a new date for the Olympic Games because of the uncertain developments in both directions: an improvement, as we are seeing in a number of countries thanks to the severe measures being taken, or a deteriorating situation in other countries.
Therefore, further the study of different scenarios, it would need the full commitment and cooperation of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese authorities, and of all the International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and all stakeholders of the Olympic Games. It is in light of the worldwide deteriorating situation, and in the spirit of our shared commitment to the Olympic Games, that the IOC Executive Board has today initiated the next step in our scenarios.
As a fellow Olympian, I hope that you can understand our challenge, and accept and support our principles which are to safeguard your, your families’ and everyone’s health, and to keep your Olympic dream alive.
Wishing you, your families and your friends first of all good health and all the best, I remain, with kind regards,
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